Press freedom

A collaboration between the Law School 
and School of Communication and Arts
Led by Dr Rebecca Ananian-Welsh and Professor Peter Greste

Law can threaten press freedom, and also protect it. How do we get the balance right?

Press freedom is central to the rule of law and free speech in a liberal democracy. In Australia, press freedom lacks the legal protection or recognition found elsewhere. This has allowed our laws to encroach on press freedom and led to a ‘chilling effect’ across public interest journalism.

Join the conversation on Twitter #uqpressfreedom

In 2019, following successive police raids on journalists, Australia dropped 5 places (to 26) in the World Press Freedom Index. Whilst Australia was once the model for press freedom in the Asia-Pacific Region, Reporters Sans Frontiers’ reported that it “is now characterised by its threats to the confidentiality of sources and to investigative journalism.”

Senior law lecturer Dr Rebecca Ananian-Welsh and and Professor of Journalism Peter Greste lead a team working to restore press freedom with a combination of legal analysis and on-the-ground research. 


On this page:


Reforms needed to Australian Law

Get the background and our recommendations in brief.

silhouetted figure looking out windowForeign Interference Law and Press Freedom

Reform Briefing 1/2022 | Sarah Kendall

2018 laws introduced 9 new foreign interference offences to Australian law. This policy paper provides an overview of these laws, explains their impact on the media (particularly foreign organisations and journalists), and outlines a reform agenda to tackle foreign interference without sacrificng press freedom.

close up of a boom microphoneDefine Journalism; Not Journalists 

Reform Briefing 3/2021 | Peter Greste

Journalism plays a crucial role in Australia’s democracy, and given the extent of change that the industry has gone through in the digital revolution, it's essential that legislation be updated to include a more appropriate definition.

Wall of closed glass windows, one openClosed Justice and Press Freedom

Background Briefing 2/2021 | Lucy Noble-Dickinson & Rebecca Ananian-Welsh

Journalists play an important role in facilitating open justice and pushing back against claims of secrecy. Justifications for closed courts and secrecy include to protect persons, information or national security.

side profile of face against cameraWho is a Journalist?

Background Briefing 1/2021 | Dominic Frost

Legal definitions of a journalist operate in every Australian State and Territory and under federal law.  Is it possible to define a journalist in law?  Should a uniform definition be adopted?

rusty shieldReforming Australian Shield Laws

Reform Briefing 2/2021 | Anna Kretowicz

An overview of the current state of Australian shield laws, with reform recommendations to better protect source confidentiality and press freedom, without unduly compromising the public interest in law enforcement.

whistle hanging from a yellow lanyardWhistleblowing to the Media

Reform Briefing 2/2020 | Rebecca Ananian-Welsh

This Policy Paper summarises and critiques the avenues by which a public sector worker may make a protected disclosure of information to the media.

Police Do not cross tapeEspionage and Press Freedom in Australia

Reform Briefing 1/2020 | Sarah Kendall 

An overview of Australia’s espionage laws, explaining their impact on media and identifying law reform options to protect national security without unduly undermining press freedom.

Police Do not cross tapeThe 2019 AFP Raids on Australian Journalists

Background Briefing 1/2020 | Rebecca Ananian-Welsh 

The AFP raids have become a focal point for debate concerning the recognition, protection and health of press freedom in Australia. In this Policy Paper, we provide a background to those raids and consider their legal and political consequences.

Why press freedom?

Watch Dr Ananian-Welsh discuss what inspired her to start research into press freedom and how the suite of policy papers came about. 

New Frontiers of Research Episode 1: Press Freedom from UQ Law on Youtube with transcript (5m:06s).

Rebecca Ananian-Welsh in conversation with Peter Greste


In this interview, award-winning journalist, press freedom advocate and UNESCO Chair in Journalism and Communications at UQ, Professor Peter Greste, speaks with Dr Rebecca Ananian-Welsh about press freedom in Australia. With an introduction by Deborah Terry OA, UQ Vice Chancellor and President on the occasion of Dr Ananian-Welsh winning the Paul Bourke Award for excellence in social sciences scholarship (YouTube, 42m)